Microstructural and textural analysis of naturally deformed granulites in the Mount Hay block of central Australia
Quantitatively describing the deformational behavior (i.e. the rheology) of lower crustal materials has proven challenging due to the highly variable nature of structural and compositional fabrics in the lower crust. Further, many flow laws describing the rheology of monophase aggregates are experimentally derived and do not necessarily apply to polyphase materials, such as gabbro, that dominate the lower crust. Here, we present the results of integrated microstructural analysis and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) textural analysis from exhumed lower crustal granulites in the Mount Hay block of central Australia. The preservation of heterogeneous mafic and felsic granulites containing monophase and/or polyphase mixtures of anorthite, pyroxene, and quartz (interlayered on the mm- to m-scale) make this region uniquely suited for advancing our knowledge of the processes that affect deformation and the rheology of the lower crust. Forty-two samples from distinct structural and compositional domains were chosen to compare the microstructural record of deformation, the development of crystallographic textures, and to provide estimates of lower crustal rheology and deformation conditions. Full thin-section maps of crystallographic texture were produced using EBSD methods. The resultant orientation maps were processed to characterize crystallographic textures in all constituent phases, and all other quantifiable aspects of the rock microstructure (e.g., grain size, grain shape, misorientation axes). The EBSD analysis reveals the presence of strong crystallographic preferred orientations (CPO) in nearly all constituent phases, suggesting deformation dominated by dislocation creep. Differential stresses during deformation are calculated using grain size piezometry for all major phases, and range between 34-54 MPa in quartz within monophase layers. Two-pyroxene geothermometry was used to constrain deformation temperatures to ca. 780-810 C. Based on the estimated CPO patterns, stress, and temperature, we quantify strain rates and effective viscosities of all major phases through application of monophase flow laws. Monophase strain rates range from 2.10 x 10-12 s-1 to 1.56 x 10-11 s-1 for quartz, 4.68 x 10-15 s-1 to 2.48 x 10-13 s-1 for plagioclase feldspar, 1.56 x 10-18 s-1 to 1.64 x 10-16 s-1 for enstatite, and 5.66 x 10-16 s-1 to 1.00 x 10-14 s-1 for diopside. The determined flow law variables used for monophase calculations were subsequently applied to two different models – the Minimized Power Geometric model of Huet et al. (2014) and the Asymptotic Expansion Homogenization (AEH) method of Cook (2006) – in order to calculate a bulk aggregate viscosity of the polyphase material. At a strain rate of 10-14 s-1, polyphase effective viscosities for our samples range from 3.07 x 1020 to 2.74 x 1021 Pa·s. We find that the bulk viscosity of heterogeneous, gabbroic lower crust in the Mount Hay region lies between that of monophase plagioclase and monophase quartz, and varies as a function of composition. These results are consistent with past modeling studies and geophysical estimates.